By Peter McNamara
Alan Bennett’s tweet summed it up, didn’t it?
‘Dreams come true for a young Benno! Happy @CorkCityFC fan tonight!’.
Attached? A picture of the Cork City central defender as a young fella holding a football wearing a club jersey from the time Guinness were the sponsors. A bygone era.
Every City supporter, be they near or far, could relate. We were all young Alan Bennetts.
We all dreamed of playing at Turner’s Cross in the same City jersey.
And we definitely all dreamed of playing in an FAI Cup final in the same kit. And every kit after it, for that matter.
I live a stone’s throw from the Cross. As in, if a professional golfer teed off from my garden, say, Dustin Johnson, one of the big hitters, the Major winner would consider it a birdie chance on a par five hole. That close.
Therefore, growing up, visits to The Shed were plentiful on Sunday afternoons in particular. Those days, City were very decent too. And Bennett’s tweet reminded me of those teams and campaigns.
Phil Harrington. Declan Daly. Derek Coughlan. Dave Hill. Patsy Freyne. Pat Morley. And, of course, a guy by the name of John Caulfield. Heroes. Our heroes.
Of course, there are countless others, but those spring to mind.
These are barren times in terms of major sporting silverware residing on Leeside.
People in some parts of the country might think: ‘Our hearts bleed for ye’. And it is true we were blessed to be born in the greatest county in the world.
However, when you’re used to revelling in success after success the sporting recession keenly felt by the banks of the Lee has been quite disconcerting.
That frustrating fact made yesterday’s FAI Cup final triumph even more satisfying.
The generations after us needed their own heroes, their own idols. Now they have them.
Mark McNulty. Alan Bennett. Captain Greg Bolger. Steven Beattie. Stephen Dooley. Kevin O’Connor. Gearóid Morrissey. Karl Sheppard. Kenny Browne. Séan Maguire. Garry Buckley. Matthew Connor. Colin Healy. Gavan Holohan. Michael McSweeney. Chiedozie Ogbene. Mark O’Sullivan. Ian Turner.
The match-day squad at Aviva Stadium. Names that’ll always be remembered fondly in Cork city in particular from yesterday onwards. Names those generations after us can now look up to and take inspiration from in their own lives and budding sporting careers.
The same way Bennett was motivated to emulate the feats of his City idols. And sure, isn’t that what it’s all about at the end of the day? Passing that adoration for the crest on?
Too often in sport nowadays that’s a redundant psyche. It’s salience is lost on too many players. But not Bennett. He gets it completely.
And so does Caulfield. His quote to Tony O’Donoghue live on RTÉ’s coverage after full-time was just perfect.
“Managers come and go but the fans are there for life and now they’re smiling,” Caulfield said.
Never were there truer words spoken. Caulfield is a fan himself so all of the rest of us appreciated his sentiments 10-fold.
And his personality and managerial demeanour have never altered, despite his increasing profile.
Caulfield’s a gentleman.
And from his time guiding Avondale United to every kind of trophy available to them, to the present day he remains as, let’s just say, animated as he was then on the sidelines.
His heart is always in the right place. And we can moan now and again that he sets the team up conservatively or whatever else.
Yet, he’s one of our own, just like Bennett, and now a managerial winner of a major trophy at the highest level too.
Caulfield has overseen an outrageous transformation in the team’s fortunes.
The club and its supporters will be forever indebted to the man for all of his contributions, both as a player and as a manager.
The next question is: Can he oversee the destruction of Dundalk’s SSE Airtricity League Premier Division dominance?
However, we’ll all concern ourselves with the answer to that $6 million dollar question at a later date.
Today, tomorrow and the next day will be all about glowing in the buzz of this breakthrough victory.
Every City fan will remember where they were when Séan Maguire’s deflected half-volley spun menacingly away from Gary Rogers and into the bottom corner on Sunday, November 6, 2016.
After all, who could forget Derek Coughlan’s Cup final replay winner in 1998 at Dalymount Park? Or Denis Behan’s diving header, another Cup final winner, at the RDS in 2007?
By God we were sopping wet leaving the RDS that day. But we were happy and singing.
Unlike two years previous departing Lansdowne Road both beaten and frost-beaten.
Truth be told, to this day I remain unsure which was worse on that occasion – the loss to Drogheda United itself, or the Baltic weather conditions.
You do recall all of those little details from those days out, however.
Like in 1992 running into Kent Station for the train with my father and his friend as we were late.
Bohemians chinned City 1-0 that day. Was it worth the rush though? Of course it was. After all, it’s those times that make these days all the sweeter.
Work commitments decreed I witnessed yesterday’s joyous occasion from Irish Examiner Towers, as did a number of other regulars at the Cross.
That was okay too though as we all enjoyed a rare moment of office revelry Ricky Gervais would have been proud of.
The City folk among us had been glued to their nearest screen expecting to spend the next minutes sussing out who the penalty-takers would be.
Then, however, Maguire swivelled and changed the complexion of the season. And maybe, just maybe, the complexion of next season with it.
His intervention has certainly lifted the sporting spirits of Cork, for starters.
And made the dreams of all the young ‘Bennos’ in and among us come to life.